Rare 1,100-year-old murals on display in China

Updated: Jun 21, 2011, 09:32 AM IST

Beijing: Rare murals dating back at least 1,100 years and unearthed from various tombs, were thrown open Monday to public viewing for the first time in Xi`an, capital of China`s Shaanxi province.

It`s the first-ever exhibition of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) murals at Shaanxi History Museum, displaying 97 pieces of rare murals found in tombs of imperial family members, including princes and princesses, said the museum`s curator Cheng Jianzheng.

The museum houses over 1,500 square metres of Tang Dynasty murals unearthed from 20 tombs, Xinhua reported Monday.

These murals were painted on walls of imperial palaces, residences of aristocrats, temples, grottoes and tombs in ancient China.

All the exhibition facilities have been imported from Italy, which ensures the murals are well protected from harmful gas, dust and human damage.

While most murals in tombs and underground grottoes were found well-preserved, many others, painted in wood-and-earth structures on the ground, had either perished with the buildings themselves or been eroded by the changing temperature and moisture, Cheng said.

To ensure quality preservation of the murals, they are being displayed in a temperature-and-moisture-controlled environment, Cheng said.

Archaeologists say most of the murals unearthed from tomb chambers portrayed scenes of the tomb owners` daily life and were buried with the dead as important funeral offerings.

As only the rich and powerful had murals in their tomb chambers, most of the works portray maids, officers and officials. Many feature hunting, dancing and sporting scenes that represented lifestyles of the upper class.

All the murals were unearthed near Xi`an, which was capital for 13 dynasties and the starting point for caravans that travelled along the Silk Road from China to Central and West Asia. This is why foreigners often appear in Tang Dynasty murals, said Cheng.

The 4,200 sq metre exhibition hall is a Sino-Italian project supported by the Italian government and the government of Shaanxi province.

IANS